Family members sitting around a table having discussion over dinner. Visual concept for legal blog about how to talk about estate planning.

There’s no better time to commit to creating an estate plan — or review one you already have in place — than the new year. Although it might not be the most exciting New Year’s resolution you make, creating a comprehensive estate plan is a vital step to ensure your loved ones are financially protected and your wishes are carried out when you pass away. Since the topic can be emotionally charged, it’s essential to carefully consider how to discuss estate planning with your family and the time that is best to have this important talk.

How to Discuss Estate Planning

Estate planning can often be a somber topic. After all, no one wants to think about a loved one passing away. Even though the subject can be difficult, there are a few ways you can make the conversation less emotionally overwhelming for you and your family. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when it comes to how to discuss estate planning with your loved ones:

  • Plan to have the discussion at an appropriate time and place Plan ahead so that the discussion is not a surprise. Let your family know in advance that you’d like to get together to talk about your estate plan. Set aside a specific time and day to have the conversation in an environment where everyone can take part. If some family members cannot be there in person, include them by video chat or phone call.
  • Explain why you’re making an estate plan Your loved ones may be surprised when you bring up the topic of estate planning. Be open and transparent with them. Explain to them that you’re creating an estate plan as an act of love. An estate plan can ensure they are financially protected when you pass away and nothing slips through the cracks.
  • Inform your family of your wishes and reasoning — One of the things that can cause disputes among family members after your passing is not knowing what your intentions and wishes were. If you explain your reasoning to your loved ones for how you plan to distribute your property, they will be less likely to think you were unduly influenced or manipulated by a beneficiary.
  • Ask your loved ones what property holds sentimental value for them — Your loved ones may have special memories attached to certain items. Asking them which of your smaller assets they would want can help bring family memories to the forefront and keep the discussion positive.
  • Continue the discussion in the future — There is a lot that goes into making a comprehensive estate plan. Keep the initial estate planning conversation brief and let your loved ones know you plan to continue the discussion in the future.

It’s best to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney so you can have an informed discussion with your family about the types of estate planning documents you intend to have in place. In addition, no one but you will know what estate planning tools you have used or where the documents will be kept. It’s vital to let your loved ones know where you will be keeping your last will and testament, trust documents, and a list of any beneficiary designations.

Don’t Forget to Discuss Your Plans for Incapacity

When you’re thinking about how to discuss estate planning with your family, don’t forget to talk about incapacity. Critically, a comprehensive estate plan shouldn’t only address who will receive your assets when you pass away — it should also include a plan for incapacity. By creating a plan that specifies what will happen if you cannot make decisions for yourself, you are helping to take the burden off the shoulders of your loved ones in the event of a medical emergency. Without an incapacity plan, your loved ones might fight about what they think you want — and have to resolve the issue of who has authority to make decisions on your behalf in court.

By having the following documents in place, you can help reduce the risk of conflict among your loved ones and ensure you have a say in your financial affairs and healthcare matters:

  • Durable Financial Power of Attorney — A financial power of attorney allows you to choose someone to act on your behalf when it comes to financial matters. You may give this person the specific authority to conduct one transaction, or the broad power to handle all your business and financial matters.
  • Health Care Directive — A health care directive is a critical part of an incapacity plan that helps to ensure your wishes for medical care and treatment are met. It authorizes someone else to make medical decisions on your behalf if you cannot make them for yourself. It also contains a living will that communicates your wishes for end-of-life care, specifies Do Not Resuscitate instructions, and your organ and tissue donation preferences.

In the event you become incapacitated and do not have the proper documents in place, anyone can petition for the authority to handle your affairs. In such cases, the court may establish a guardianship or conservatorship and determine who will make decisions for you. Since the court process is costly, and a judge’s decision may not reflect your wishes, it’s best to take the time to create an incapacity plan so that you are able to make crucial decisions about your medical treatment and finances for yourself.

Contact an Experienced Minnesota Estate Planning Attorney

Knowing how to talk about estate planning with your loved ones can be hard. A knowledgeable estate planning attorney can help you prepare for the discussion and help ensure your objectives are met. Located in Maple Grove, Mundahl Law works with clients throughout Minnesota for all their estate and incapacity planning needs. To learn more about how we can assist you, or to schedule an appointment, contact Mundahl Law at 763-575-7930.

Categories: Estate Planning